University implements recommendations from UC task force on addressing sexual assault and violence

UC President Janet Napolitano announced Wednesday that the university has implemented several recommendations from a UC task force on addressing sexual violence and assault, putting it on track in efforts to improve how campuses handle sexual assault cases.

The recommendations include hiring an advocate on each campus to provide confidential help to survivors of sexual assault and violence, implementing a two-team response model for addressing sexual violence across campuses and launching a UC-wide website, according to a UC press release.These are among seven recommendations presented in September by the President’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault.

“The task force acted with swift, deliberate purpose in meeting the timeline the members were given,” Napolitano said at Wednesday’s UC Regents meeting.

In line with the task force’s recommendations, UC Berkeley hired Mari Knuth-Bouracee as the first director of sexual assault prevention and student advocacy last fall and established a website for sexual survivor support. According to the recommendations, campus websites are set to be standardized in terms of how they provide certain information.

Last spring, the federal government launched an investigation into the campus’s handling of sexual violence cases after 31 current and former students filed a complaint. Similar complaints have been filed against UC Santa Barbara and other campuses across the country.

ASUC Senator Haley Broder, who helped advise the task force, supported the hiring of Knuth-Bouracee but said the campus needed to hire more people. Additionally, Broder said she would like to see more student involvement in the task force’s decisions.

“Yes, our feedback is being taken,” Broder said. “But it needs to be listened to more, I think. … We need to be heard in these conversations.”

Rishi Ahuja, the ASUC student advocate and one of two student representatives on the task force, said the task force has been working since June. He noted that the campus is searching for another staff member to work with Knuth-Bouracee.

At the meeting, Ahuja also mentioned that moving forward, he thinks UC campuses should take more action to help change the behavior of perpetrators of sexual violence.

“When we expel a student, we solve the problem for our campus,” Ahuja said. “But we may not have actually made it less likely for that person to commit that act.”

UC Berkeley junior Meghan Warner, a sexual assault survivor and one of the 31 complainants, also advised the task force and called the implementations of these recommendations a positive step, but she said she would not be “too congratulatory” until she sees more tangible change for students.

The task force’s next set of goals include developing training on each campus and providing services to those accused of sexual violence, set to be implemented in July, according to the release.


Melissa Wen is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @melissalwen.